Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Army of One

“Be An Army of One” was a short-lived slogan used by the US Army in the mid 2000’s.  The vision of a single individual, bravely fighting off the hoards was thought to be an admirable vision to promote.

The great challenge with an army of one is that no matter how romantic the notion of the valiant solider holding off the masses in Rambo-like fashion is, eventually the army of one runs out of energy, resources and luck and is overrun.

The same is true in Life.  There are times when we must be the army of one, bravely standing up for what needs to be stood up for, striving for a vision that is important or courageously fighting off the hoards until the cavalry arrives.

Many times a situation calls for a leader to step forward whose vision, insight, knowledge, strengths and charisma inspire us and lead us towards whatever we define as victory.

However, once the leader has identified “the hill to be taken”, does the leader charge up the hill without support?

Not at all – because an army of one quickly becomes an army of none.

I am in the process of watching two not-for-profits and three for-profit companies die, taking tens of millions of dollars with them, because their leaders have decided to take the hill on their own.

Meanwhile, the talented, enabled, empowered members of their team who would help them take the hill are waiting for their orders or have been ordered to stand down until needed.  Some have gone AWOL with the hope of finding a better leader.

Perhaps the leaders of these organizations have plans to name the hill after themselves when they take it.  Owning the credit is something their ego-based existence dreams of, even as they deny it to themselves and others.

The thing that these leaders miss is that if they really want to plant the flag at the top of the hill, then they need to take the hill as a team.

Every one of their team members bring strengths, insights, talents and knowledge to the table that will help the team take the hill together.

Leaders who don’t effectively use their teams to be all they can be in taking the hill together soon discover an interesting lesson.

When it’s you against the world, the safest bet is on the world.

Leaders have a choice – they can plant the flag on top of the hill when the team succeeds together.

Or they can choose to be buried at the bottom of it.

The choice seems pretty obvious if the focus is on the ultimate result rather than the promotion of someone’s ego.

But then again, if it were so obvious, I wouldn’t be watching these leaders storm the hill by themselves right now, would I?

Be an army of one when you need to be – but know when the cavalry is needed to carry the day.

The result will be something to celebrate together.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute entry for “An Army of One” is the same as this one and can be found here.


  1. Very well said! It has always amazed me when a 'leader' chooses to take a salary from an organization and rather than do what is best for the organization, choose instead to make it "theirs". In the case of a non-profit, this is even more disheartening because a non-profit that depends upon funds from outside the organization cannot afford a hero at the top who's motivation is self interest rather than the best interest of the org in which they work.

    Your insights offer me some thoughts about my own actions in many different areas. Thank you for keeping it poignant and insightful.

  2. Thank you for your kind comments, Patti.

    I do have a bit of a dilemma with these companies. The shareholders for the three for-profits don't know their investment is lost as they haven't been notified yet (and some of them are "name brands" within their local market. The two not-for-profits are actively seeking additional government and private funding but at this point, it is too late.

    So ... what is the right thing to do? I suspect it is to allow all of it to develop as it is developing.

    However, it is difficult to watch.

    Take care and create a great day.